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Dental students teach local pupils all about staying healthy with SUGAR SMART Tower Hamlets

Students from Queen Mary’s Institute of Dentistry and Barts Health NHS Trust have been teaching primary school pupils from Tower Hamlets all about the benefits of healthy living as part of delivering a national campaign – SUGAR SMART.

4 February 2020

Students outside Stepney Greencoat Church of England Primary School. Credit: Huda Yusuf
Students outside Stepney Greencoat Church of England Primary School. Credit: Huda Yusuf

SUGAR SMART is a campaign run by the alliance Sustain which aims to help local authorities, organisations, workplaces and individuals to reduce the amount of sugar we all consume.

In addition to over 70 undergraduate dental and dental hygiene and therapy students, volunteers from Barts Community Smiles and postgraduate students also joined the sessions. The Institute of Dentistry is one of the first dental schools in England to implement the SUGAR SMART campaign.

Working with Tower Hamlets Council’s Public Health Department, the students went into eight primary schools before the Christmas break reaching more than 2700 pupils. They interacted with pupils and showed videos about healthy living including reading food labels and working out the sugar content in fizzy drinks and juices.  

Pupils asked questions including ‘When do the front teeth all fall out?’, ‘Do you find studying dentistry interesting?’ and, most importantly of all, ‘What is better dragon fruit juice or orange juice?’.

Dental students explained the harm that sugar can do to all parts of the body – causing everything from obesity to tooth decay, the importance of physical activity and healthy tips for looking after teeth.

An excellent collaboration

Dr Huda Yusuf, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Dental Public Health at Queen Mary, said: “This is an excellent collaboration between the Institute of Dentistry, Barts Health NHS Trust, Tower Hamlets Council and schools to promote healthy weight and healthy mouths among primary school children.

“This is the second year that our students have visited eight schools and we will work with the Council next year so we can help educate children in more schools about how to look after their health.”

Dr Yusuf hopes that children will talk to their families about maintaining healthy bodies and healthy mouths, including the following points:

  • Eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Being sugar smart and cutting down on the amount of sugar in the diet
  • Being physically active and playing games or running around
  • Brushing teeth with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Visit an NHS dentist

Dr Somen Banerjee, Director of Public Health at Tower Hamlets Council, said: “A balanced diet, being active and reducing our sugar intake are important factors to living a healthy lifestyle. I am delighted to have had this opportunity to work with students from Queen Mary’s Institute of Dentistry and Barts Health NHS Trust as part of the national SUGAR SMART campaign. It is so important for us to support our primary school children to eat healthily. This project is an example of some of the steps we are taking to help children maintain a healthy weight and have healthy teeth.”

Teachers’ feedback included comments such as “It is an eye opener for the children realising how bad sugar is” and “When children leave here today they will be telling their parents about tooth brushing”.

More information:

  • SUGAR SMART is also encouraging people to take part in Fizz Free February by cutting out fizzy drinks this month
  • Schools visited include: Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, Stebon Primary School, Cubitt Town Junior School, Redlands Primary School, The Clara Grant Primary School, Woolmore Primary School, Thomas Buxton Primary School and Stepney Greencoat Church of England Primary School